Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Accident (Yi Ngoi)

The film opens with a man killed in what seems like a freak accident. But it soon becomes apparent that the man, a triad boss, has been assassinated in clever plot conceived of by Brain (Louis Koo) and his team. Their modus operandi is to stage intricate, Rube Goldbergian-like accidents to cover up their involvement and avoid the police.

When their latest assignment goes wrong, Brain becomes obsessed with an insurance agent (Richie Jen) connected to their client, convinced that he is somehow targeting Brain and his group. Brain's ever-growing paranoia unsettles his calm, cool demeanor and soon has him questioning who he can trust.

While I had heard mixed reviews from others who had seen the film, I enjoyed Accident. What could have been a conventional Hong Kong action film is rendered into something a bit more psychological. The staged accidents could have been a distraction, but the focus remains squarely on Brain and his doubts and uncertainty. Someone had mentioned that the film reminded him of Coppola's The Conversation, and there are definitely shared elements and themes between the two, even if Accident doesn't quite reach the same heights.

Director Soi Cheang did a Q&A after the film:

  • Cheang can't really articulate the process of how a simple idea evolved into the film, but he remembers having this idea of creating accidents that he had a really strong feeling about it. They went through a number of processes, such as with the initial scene and the shattered glass, he didn't know how to shatter the glass. At one point they thought about using sound waves and creating some sort of supersonic gun, but it turned out to be really loud and had to consult some professors on the idea, and eventually had to drop it. In the end, they tried to perfect it scientifically, and added a lot of mechanics and chemistry to make it work.
  • What you saw with the gang hidden away in a room trying to plot out these assassinations was the same process that the writers used. Every night Cheang and the other scriptwriters would go back in a room and try to think up assassination plots, and he though this is how that group must have lived if they were real. Cheang joked that in the end he realized how painful it was to think of a plot to kill someone.
  • Someone in the audience asked if Cheang thought Princess Diana's death was a staged accident, to which he replied that when they were writing the script, they actually did think about her accident, but they couldn't figure out if it was a setup or real.
  • Cheang hopes they will eventually release in North America, but no plans as of yet.
  • Sometimes the rainy scenes were real, but most of the time he didn't want it to rain because it happened in instances where the crew almost got electrocuted themselves. Unfortunately when filming, they experienced three typhoons in Hong Kong.
  • Most of what you see on the streets was real, because they didn't seal the set because Cheang wanted a real-life vibe, but his assistant director and the rest of the crew thought he was crazy. That presented a number of difficulties, such as shopkeepers being annoyed that their stores were blocked off because of the filming. In the opening scene, they did block off the street, but many drivers didn't realize they were shooting a movie and a scuffle almost broke out. The store where the glass shatters was excited at first, but after a few days complained about the lost business, but in the end were friends.
  • Cheang did worry about having an unsympathetic lead character, so when he created the story he consciously added a backstory to show that the character is not a superhero or all-powerful; he's also experienced real trauma in his life and is a real human being, and that trauma had a huge influence on his life, and he can't shake it off. Cheang experienced many of the same emotions as the character, for instance the doubts and suspicion throughout the story, he could feel the pain and walk the same path as he made the movie.


My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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